11 Photos from Canada's Incredible Temperate Rainforest

For most people, the word "rainforest" recalls scenes from the tropics, where the temperature and humidity soar just like the myriad of colourful birds overhead. Places like South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia boast the largest and most famous tracts of tropical rainforest in the world. 

What most people don't know is, that Canada of all places is home to one of the most amazing rainforests on the planet - only this one isn't tropical, it's temperate. Stretching from northern California, up the coast of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia - all the way to southeast Alaska, is a forest so lush, that parts of it hold the world's highest levels of biomass!

In the Pacific Northwest, a relatively mild climate allows for a long growing season. The staggering extent of growth within these forests truly has to be seen to be believed. In many areas, giant Sword Ferns and Vine Maples dominate the understory, giving it an otherworldly, primeval appearance.

Fuelling all this growth is a high level of rainfall. Pictured here, glacial meltwater from mountaintops high above, careens off a 70m plunge in the heart of British Columbia's rainforest.

An idyllic scene photographed at the height of spring when greenery is at its peak.

Colourful birds aren't just limited to the world's tropical rainforests, as is proven by the vibrant blue of British Columbia's provincial bird: the Steller's Jay - a ubiquitous species often located by its raucous call. 

Another beautiful bird - this one known as the Red Crossbill, has a unique physical adaptation. As its name implies, its bill is crossed! This allows it to exploit a plentiful food source otherwise inaccessible to other forest dwelling creatures. By inserting its special bill into pine cones, it pries and twists to reveal the nutrient rich seeds, then extracts them with its tongue! 

The outstretched limbs of an old-growth Vine Maple twist and turn above the verdant understory. Moss, ferns and other epiphytic plants cling to nearly every surface throughout this environment - in this case, deriving their nutrients from the tree branch beneath. 

Found here are raccoons, one of the most easily-recognizable animals in North America. Omnivores such as these, affectionately known as "masked bandits", are well accustomed to life in the temperate rainforest, where they can search high and low for their preferred food such as frogs, fish and other small vertebrates. 

A new arrival to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest: the Barred Owl. As a result of human habitation across the prairies, this rambling species was able to make its way across the continent. It was first sighted in British Columbia in the early 1960's and has since spread rapidly throughout the rainforest - unfortunately at the cost of the very similar and native Northern Spotted Owl. 


Not all denizens of these deep, dark woods are as majestic as Barred Owls. However, with some searching, treasures can be found in the understory as well. The Pacific Sideband: a large terrestrial snail, is endangered in Canada. 

An impressive annual rainfall (reaching over 15 feet in some parts of British Columbia) not only fuels growth but also helps to suppress wildfires, allowing trees like this 1200 year old Douglas Fir to grow into giants!

All of the photographs above were taken by me, Jess Findlay, in southwestern British Columbia, Canada.

Want to learn more about nature photography? Click below to check out the instructional photo workshops I lead in amazing locations throughout British Columbia!